Archive for Thursday, February 26, 2004

Fire, police show need for building in city’s center

February 26, 2004

Eudora police and fire departments have the footprints laid for a proposed centrally-located public safety office. Although land has not yet been acquired, Police Chief Greg Dahlem and Fire Chief Spencer McCabe have drawn a picture of a shared public safety office for both departments that includes more room and better facilities.
The chiefs presented the preliminary plans to city leaders last week during a discussion of capital improvements needed during the next five years. The current proposal, plus furnishings, is estimated by engineers to cost about $3 million. McCabe said federal money could be available for the fire department side.
"This is one of the most deserving projects the city could invest in," McCabe said.
The fire department had long ago outgrown its facility, the chief said. Among other logistical and storage problems, some of which were detrimental to the equipment, McCabe put the punch in his argument by explaining that the 20-some volunteers shared one bathroom after a call.
The proposed new center -- the fire department portion of which McCabe said would be based in part on the Baldwin City fire department -- would include men's and women's restrooms and locker rooms, plus a small workout room for cardiovascular and weight training.
"We want our guys to try and be sharp, so they'll be up to snuff," McCabe said.
In addition to allowing outdoor training space, a new fire department building would make room for employees and volunteers and their office supplies, as well as for equipment. The building would allow the equipment to be stored away from the trucks and cleaned in a special room rather than on the street, where firefighters are left dodging traffic.
Moreover, the trucks would have a more spacious -- and ventilated -- area for storage and cleaning. The building could also serve some sort of cooperative ambulance service if that were to come in the future.
In looking to the future, the proposed design would include the groundwork to build an upper story for dormitory and recreation space should the department become full-time.
"We need to provide (volunteers) with something they can stake a claim to," McCabe said.
Although the police department wasn't in such a dire situation, Dahlem -- who can remember when the department operated out of two rooms -- said the 1999 additions were no longer cutting it.
In addition to more workspace for police staff, the proposed new facility would allow more adequate storage space for evidence and old files, which are currently stored in the attic upstairs. Revamping the design would also provide pumped-up security, which Dahlem said was a staple of many other law enforcement centers.
"Things really changed after September 11th, 2001," Dahlem said.
However, he said the current building could also be revamped to improve safety.
With the additional officers who will be needed as Eudora grows, Dahlem said there would come a time the city wouldn't be able to provide each officer with his or her own vehicle to take home. Therefore, the proposed building would allow the department to safely store its shared vehicles.
The building would also provide several interviewing rooms that would offer more privacy and fewer distractions than the currently used conference room. Moreover, the building's design would provide a more private entrance.
"When we interview people, everybody on Main Street sees who we're interviewing," Dahlem said.
It was discussed to also add a small municipal courtroom to the building. Although not illegal, the chief said it appeared to the public to have a prosecutory bias and that the city attorney would likely discourage such plans.
As well as improving public safety by shortening response times -- as well as improving business, renter's and homeowner's insurance ratings -- a centrally-located public safety office would also serve as an emergency response center.
The central location is footprinted near Church Street and Kansas Highway 10. However, land price and availability could change that. Moreover, McCabe said the city might find a better central location.
To deal with the cost, it was suggested to move the proposed project to 2007 or to build it in two phases.
The building, and other capital improvement items, are only plans and are still subject to budgetary restrictions and Council approval.

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